The film is a captivating view experience written for the screen by Eric Roth, that tells a fictionalized tale related (somewhat) to actual characters and historic events. Reading what Pete Earley writes as to the reality of the individuals and events that Roth relied upon to create his fiction makes the film more disappointing than I already thought it was due to the lack of onscreen chemistry between several of the actors (who all independently deliver convincing performances) — I got the impression that the relationships between some was acting-about-acting. However, the film delivers on an entertainment level due to the interesting and continually developing fictional story line, while Earley’s article points out the contradictions and misleadments involved. What I’d have preferred to view was the real story and not the imagined people of Eric Roth’s mind and the other players’ involved in this fictional “reinterpretation.”
The American traitor John Walker Jr. once said the best way to hide a lie is by wrapping it in layers of truth. It’s a trick that not only serves spies, but also clever Hollywood scriptwriters. Such is the case with The Good Shepherd, a cloak-and-dagger thriller that purports to tell the story of the Central Intelligence Agency’s early days as seen through the eyes and career of Edward Wilson, the movie’s main character. Played by Matt Damon, Wilson is patterned after the legendary spy-catcher, James Jesus Angleton.
But how much of the movie is true and how much is Hollywood sizzle?
As with nearly all — if not all — these on-screen fictionalized renditions, liberties are taken with actual events, characters and organizations (in various combinations), and what inevitably results among Liberal society and other impressionable, fear-motivated people is that what lives on are questions, doubts and malignments based upon a familiarity with a fictional story and not with actual history and the result is people like the nutty Rosie O’Donnell and various persons who write on the Huffington Post — to name just a few Liberal gossip breeding-grounds. And what is missed if not omitted entirely from our collective human society is familiarity and understanding of the real people who live among us with all their facts and stories relatively straight. The result is a high degree of social espionage based upon the kinds of distortions that people like Eric Roth get to call “fiction.”
I question the personal responsibility involved here as an author, the presumption upon the power of words and especially, words performed on the big screen, used to represent. I love fiction as much as anyone, if not more, but I don’t love misrepresentation when it is situated within the real while presupposing to misrepresent the real.
Eric Roth says he wanted to create a “GODFATHER“-type character similar to that of Michael Corleone, as to his intent in writing THE GOOD SHEPHARD, but I do question as to why Liberal Roth would focus that story as he has:
…Roth wrote an original script and during his research, he became interested in Angleton. Roth soon began picturing him as his Michael Corleone character. “I get nervous when I mention the Godfather because critics immediately begin comparing The Good Shepherd to it and it has to live up to those same standards or you’re in trouble,” Roth said. “But I am referring to the Godfather in the sense of this being a family story — of focusing on one individual and telling a larger story through his eyes and experiences. The character arch between Edward Wilson and Michael Corleone has certain similarities. You start with a somewhat innocent guy who is as smart or smarter than anyone else involved with him and then you see him progress until he is better than anyone else at what he does and you then see what getting there has done to his personality.”
Although Roth drew heavily on Angleton’s life for his portrait of Edward Wilson, he quickly pointed out that The Good Shepherd was not meant to be a biography. Several characters and scenes were invented to add drama. However, Roth said that when he invented a scene, he tried to base it on a historical fact — “something the CIA has done in the past.”
I respect Eric Roth’s ability to create wonders in screenwriting — his characters developed so specifically, plots woven expertly, dialogue real enough to be believed if not sometimes a tad wan but working — but when an author uses actual humans who have lived actual lives, set among events they were involved in and then makes up additional doings and commisserations that then affects world history without the cautionary footnotes upon which the story is woven (as are also the redeveloped, fictionalized characters performing the personnas of actual identities but in fictional terms), it takes on the presence of bad dreams or worse, false history.
All these efforts and the least that we might strive to understand is the truth: about what really happened, about who people really are or were. In the case of the (actual) persons relied upon to create THE GOOD SHEPHARD, I’m sure we’ll never know. But the fiction will live on in event-honored moments.
And here we read the very unreality that I’ve been discussing, referenced as the real, unfortunately, by Roth himself — and his impact upon the interviewer is equally telling:
Question: It’s interesting that you talk about the myth of the CIA, because this might be one of the most realistic CIA movies ever.
Eric Roth: I think ever. I’m not trying to brag, but it probably is the most realistic — maybe The Spy Who Came In From the Cold or Smiley’s People would have the same reality-based quality to it.
Question: Why did you want to go so real?
Eric Roth: I think I try to be as real as I can. If you look at my movies — well, maybe Forrest Gump isn’t real — but The Insider and Ali and Munich, you know what I’m saying? I think I do try to always be real. Even when I did Forrest Gump I tried to imagine that in some kind of real context; in other words what if you’re a guy who is limited or mentally challenged and has the ability to pop up in historical events — how would that affect him? I looked at it as a real person. Phil Hendrie, the radio guy, he had this show about how the real Forrest Gump died.
the line is utterly obliterated in references between the real and the unreal and it is not without intentional direction leading perceptions astray: enjoyable when it’s entertainment and the audience expects to be taken away into otherworliness, but, quite damaging to our human condition when it’s subtlely rearranged as entertainment while being intentionally deceiving, and silent in motive.